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Join us in celebrating the successes of incredible individuals who allowed Open Door Group to be a part of their journey. This month featuring stories from Christine and Katie.


Christine contacted the Downtown Eastside WorkBC Employment Services Centre after a month of being unemployed. Her previous role in communications was freelance, meaning that she was not eligible to claim EI. She was starting to worry about the future. "The financial insecurity was very frightening" she says.

Although Christine is highly educated and has plenty of work experience, she was unsure how to approach her job search. "I hadn't actually had to look for a job in ten years!” she explains. "I found my last position through word of mouth so it was actually quite scary to embark on the job-hunting journey."

This is where we were able to help. Once Christine had attended an orientation session at the centre, she met with the WorkBC team who assessed her needs and directed her towards a number of workshops on topics such as networking, cover letters, and interview skills. These provided her with the tools she needed to effectively look for work. "It was very helpful to get input from people who are experts in these areas" says Christine. "It helped me learn what to expect from interviews, which made me less nervous."

Throughout her time working with the DTES centre, Christine found it an ideal place to practice the skills she needed to find work. "It was really beneficial to work with people who can offer good critical insights" she says. "Often, with friends and family, they don´t really have that objectivity".

"It was hard for me to come in and ask for help, but I wanted to get all the assistance I could get to ensure success in securing my next position - with pay and responsibility increases - as quickly as possible" she continues. "WorkBC helped me achieve this through access to educational workshops and partner organizations, which provided everything from wardrobe consultation to career mentorship."

Christine is now working as a marketing and communications manager for a non-profit organization. "The work is really fun and challenging" says Christine. "On my first day, I found myself organizing a photoshoot!"

The WorkBC team kept in touch with Christine for six months after she was hired which she found very helpful and reassuring.  She is capping off her probation period at her new job with a promotion to manager.



Katie*  was diagnosed with mental illness when she was 20. She suffers from Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Despite being diagnosed in her youth, she did not get proper medical attention until twenty years later. By then, she had four children and was not managing well at all.

In 2000, Katie was finally connected to a mental health team. At the time, she was volunteering at a school as well as a neighbourhood house.  At the latter, she became an advocate for senior services, responsible for coordinating events for up to 250 community participants. She also fundraised to set up a child care program. “I wanted to help and I became a lead volunteer at the centre, however there was one major problem; I was still struggling internally with my mental illness and concealed it from everyone. I just worked hard and continued on”.

Then in 2008, Katie was involved in a terrible car accident that severely impacted on her mental health. Immediately after the accident, she shut herself off from the world completely.  Overnight, she went from full-time volunteer, mother and carer, actively engaged in the community, to total disconnection.  After dedicating 10 years to the neighbourhood house (she was awarded a special plaque for this milestone) she lost touch with it altogether. “I gave up on life entirely”, says Katie. “But I couldn´t kill myself because of my children.”

Katie´s depression grew progressively worse. She was isolated and had lost motivation for everything - work, leisure activities she had previously enjoyed, and even household chores. Previously a good cook, she ate only frozen meals and came to rely on her mother to cook for her and her children. She slept on her couch with the curtains closed and would only leave the house with sunglasses and a hat, at times when there were few people around. Even these outings were rare; she only ventured out for essential groceries or the occasional short walk.

Family relationships deteriorated to the point that Katie barely spoke to her relatives and she had no friends to speak of. At this point, she didn´t enjoy being around people at all and found social situations very difficult. She didn´t like crowds and didn´t feel like she fit in anywhere.

Making the change...

Then in the summer of 2012, Katie was referred to Open Door Group. She worked with the thrive team to identify her goals. She wanted to rebuild her life and start living it more positively.  Very hesitant for the first few months, Katie eventually signed up for some classes (gardening and cycling) that would help her on the road to recovery. She struggled to attend at first but in January 2013, things began to shift. Katie met with recreation therapist Samantha and decided that she really wanted to commit to change.  The combination of programs ( Leadership, Snowshoeing, Cooking 101, Biggest Winner) really helped her to move forward. “I got so much out of these programs”, says Katie. “After five years in the dark, no medicine can compare to what these last few months have done for me”.

Through her participation in Biggest Winner, Katie learned the importance of healthy eating. She went from eating one meal a day to three which boosted her energy levels. “I feel great”, says Katy. “I learned how to use the gym and plan to continue going. I also got to know people and feel much more comfortable in groups now. I was even able to talk in front of the group; something I couldn´t do before. On top of that, I lost 7.2 inches all over. I feel so much better overall, emotionally and physically”.

As well as participation in various programs, Katie also received other supports, for example, a bursary to purchase a notebook computer which would help keep her mentally active and rediscover activities she previously enjoyed.  

Now, Katie´s goal is to step outside her comfort zone and gain confidence by meeting new people. She aims to become more active by incorporating exercise into her daily routine (she recently ran the 10km Sun Run and aims to run a half-marathon before she´s 65!). She also plans to return to her beloved neighbourhood house to take up her position as volunteer.

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